A controversial bargaining council wage agreement in the clothing industry has been extended, the clothing trade union Sactwu said on Sunday.
“This is a significant development and a great victory for [SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union] Sactwu members,” it said in a statement.
“It further strengthens our previous claim that those employers who secured a recent judgment (in the Pietermaritzburg High Court) have won a temporary and ‘hollow’ victory.”
In March, the Pietermaritzburg High Court set aside a decision by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to extend the “national main collective agreement” of the National Bargaining Council to “non-parties” in the clothing industry.
This meant clothing manufacturing companies which were not part of the council did not have to apply the minimum wage agreements.
However, the extension gazetted by Oliphant made its terms legally binding on all clothing employers and all clothing workers in all parts of South Africa, Sactwu said.
It also empowered the bargaining council to prosecute those employers who did not comply with the agreement’s provisions.
“We recognise and applaud those non-party employers who have already voluntarily implemented the new minimum wage levels, without the compulsion of a Ministerial gazettal,” Sactwu said.
“They constitute the vast majority of employers in the industry. We will continue to work constructively with them.”
Sactwu warned that if employers did not comply, it would have to ensure that the bargaining council intensified its compliance enforcement processes; and would invoke its “now gazetted and extended ‘unfettered right’ to strike” against their non-compliance.
“We now require all those employers, such as those in non-metro areas like Newcastle, Isithebe, Botshabelo, Mogwase, Ladysmith etc , as well as those employers who ran to court instead of joining the wage negotiations process, to immediately comply with the law by implementing the now extended agreement,” it said.
According to a Business Day article published at the time of the court case, five Taiwanese-owned factories and the United Clothing and Textile Association asked the court to set aside the minimum wages set by the bargaining council.
Judge Piet Koen ruled that factories which were not members of the council could hold separate talks about pay levels with their workers.
He reportedly said less than half of the employees in the clothing industry were represented by the national bargaining council.
Oliphant has given notice that the extension will come into effect next Tuesday and has extended its legal duration until the end of August 2016.